Superlative Adjectives

Adjectives describe people, places, and things in English. What happens when we want to compare a lot of nouns at once? We use superlative adjectives! If you tried or will try our lesson of the week, Achievements & Records, then you might want to review superlative adjectives with your students. These adjectives are very common when deciding who is the best at a certain activity!

Download Superlative Adjectives Chart PDF

Superlative Adjectives:

1. USE: Use superlative adjectives to compare more than two people, places, or things. Since adjectives describe nouns, superlative adjectives are descriptions about three or more nouns’ height, speed, wealth, age, etc., where one thing is the most out of a whole group.

2. FORM:

  • one-syllable adjective: the + Adj + -est
  • two-syllable adjective ending with -ythe + Adj (-y changes to -i) + -est
  • two-syllable adjective (not ending in -y): the + most + Adj
  • three-syllable (or more) adjective: the most + Adj

Note: Some two-syllable adjectives don’t follow the rules above exactly. For example, we can say the friendliest OR the most friendly, and the simplest OR the most simple. Other such adjectives include angry, cruel, handsome, gentle, and quiet.

3. EXAMPLES:

  • John is the oldest boy in the class.
  • Out of all of my classmates, Christina is the happiest. She’s always smiling!
  • Brad Pitt is the most famous actor in Hollywood.
  • Her last painting is the most beautiful one she’s ever done.

Note: We can use out of all of the + plural noun to indicate the group we’re comparing something to. The word out and/or the second of are often dropped in casual speech. Sometimes we leave out the whole expression if it is implied. (E.g., all of the following sentences are correct and have the same meaning: John is the oldest boy out of all of the students in the class, John is the oldest boy of all of the students in the class, John is the oldest boy out of all the students in the class, John is the oldest boy of all the students in the class, and John is the oldest boy in the class.)

4. WHAT ABOUT “THE LEAST”?

We can also make comparisons in English where one thing is the least of a group of things. We use the following pattern in this case: the least + Adj.

Examples:

  • Yukie is the least old in the class. (Note that the least sounds a bit strange with one-syllable adjectives. It’s better to use a different superlative adjective with the same meaning, such as the youngest in this case.)
  • Out of all my classmates, Juan is the least happy. He never smiles.
  • The new guy on that TV show must be the least famous actor in Hollywood.
  • Her first painting is the least beautiful one she’s ever done.

Our lesson of the week, Achievements & Records, is all about personal and world records. The lesson includes many chances for students to practice superlative adjectives. For fun activities, try the suggestions in our head writer’s blog post, Practicing Superlatives During the Olympics.

     

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Tanya Trusler

Tanya is a freelance editor and writer with an extensive background as an ESL teacher. She edits lesson plans, creates new materials, and writes weekly blog posts for ESL-Library and Sprout English. Her company is Editing to a T. Follow her on Twitter (@tanyatrusler) and Google Plus.

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